Overall, it's not hard to be excited about the Twins in 2020 given a 101 win season in 2019. The ending certainly wasn't ideal, but 2019 showed us that our window is open and it should be for a few years. Cleveland remains the only real competition in the central. Chicago is up and coming, but they are likely another year or two away before they can have a realistic shot of competing. KC and Detroit are dumpster fires right now. So with that in mind, it's up to Falvey and Levine to construct a roster that can not only win the central but advance deep into the post season.
There's no question that starting pitching is our biggest need, and if I were running the team, this is where I would focus if I were them, but we need to start by trimming and expanding the roster in advance of the Rule V draft. The Twins already made the easiest of moves by picking up Nelson Cruz's option, but it gets a bit tougher from here: This is our current 40 man roster. The following players are free agents: Gibson, Odorizzi, Schoop, Romo, and Castro. That leaves us at 36 before changes are made. I'd DFA/nontender/trade if someone wants to give up something for the following as well: Sam Dyson, Kohl Stewart, Ronald Torreyes, Ryan Lamarre, Trevor Hildenberger, and Ian Miller. I would also not pick up Perez's option. That brings us down to 28 guys on the roster going into winter meetings. Buxton and Poppen will most definitely return, so that moves us up to 30. CJ Cron is a bit of a wild card here. His play may not be worth the money spent on tendering him, but there's no replacement waiting in the wings just yet (more on him in a bit, but I haven't removed his spot). So as it stands right now, we need the following (several starting pitchers, a backup catcher, an 2B (though there's a replacement in house), possibly a 1B, and if possible another shut down reliever). Other than starting pitching help, this team is in pretty good shape...
So on that note, I'm going to start by tendering Odorizzi a QO, with the clear desire to sign him to a 3 year deal. I'm going to guestimate that at 3/45 to make it work, as the 17M QO is probably the starting point to a negotiation. Jake was very good for us this year, but I'm not sure he's good enough for teams to surrender a pick and pay him 50+M on a multi-year deal. That brings the roster to 31. With Odorizzi at 17M, our current payroll sits at 48M. I'm going to tender the following candidates with a note that I'd be willing to extend any extension candidate willing to sign a reasonable deal. Some players won't sign them (Buxton for sure as his value is low due to health), but I suspect a couple guys likely sign a longer term contract.
- Ehire Adrianza – $1.9MM
- Trevor May – $2.1MM (extension candidate)
- Eddie Rosario – $8.9MM (I'd stay year to year here, I could see trading him if a better FA option was available, but I'm most likely tendering him)
- Miguel Sano – $5.9MM (extension candidate)
- Byron Buxton – $2.9MM (extension candidate)
- Taylor Rogers – $3.9MM (extension candidate)
- Tyler Duffey – $1.1MM (extension candidate)
- Jose Berrios – $5.4MM (extension candidate)
That's an additional 32.1M. Add Garver in there as he's not going anywhere, but his total is about .5M. That leaves payroll at roughly 81M without Cron. Cron's arb estimate is around 7.7M, which isn't terrible for a .780 OPS. He's roughly an average bat at 1B. The problem with him though is that there aren't ML ready options to take his place... not now at least. Rooker, Raley and Weil could use more seasoning, and Kirilloff is also questionable at this point. Next year at this time, one of those guys will hopefully be knocking at the door or perhaps even had some success at the major league level, but I'm not sure there should be a plan to count on a rookie to perform. Surveying the FA market, you have a couple options available. Josh Donaldson would likely be my primary target, as he could also play 3B giving Baldelli some flexibility with Sano/Garver at 1B on occasion as well. I doubt he comes cheap, and certainly not cheaper than Cron. He's likely going to get something similar to his salary last season and quite possibly a multi-year deal, so I'd guess around 20M. Zimmerman, Rizzo, and Thames all have club options available, and to be honest there really isn't much in terms of sure fire help out there. I don't think trading for a 1B makes any sense at all unless there's someone who is essentially on the last year of his deal and performing. In all, I think tendering Cron is the right answer here unless they know they can get Donaldson... and I doubt that. So I tender him at 7.7M bringing our payroll up to roughly 89M.
I'm not quite sure who all needs protecting and exposing. I'm using roster resource and protecting anyone that has R5 or Dec 19 as their status if their play warrants it. That said, I know this tool isn't completely accurate, so hopefully I haven't missed anyone. I see 10 names that warrant discussion. Let's start with the easy ones:
- Griffin Jax (protect)
- Luke Raley (protect)
- Jake Reed (expose. He was not good last year)
- Zander Wiel (expose. He was not good last year)
It gets a bit more difficult from here.
- Travis Blankenhorn - He will likely get a crack at AAA in his age 23 season. He had a .785 OPS in AA, and really does seem to be turning a corner. Those numbers are nothing special, but question at hand is can he stick on a ML roster. I don't think it's worth the risk. I protect him.
- Jhoan Duran - Duran likely starts in AA in his age 22 season, though he could also be promoted as he did spent some time there. He does a fantastic job keeping the ball in the park. His walk rate is acceptable and he doesn't give a lot of hits. He's kept his K rate around 10/9 IP for the last 2 seasons. I protect him.
- Dakota Chalmers - Chalmers is a sleeper. I could see a bad team poaching him and stashing him with their extra spot as he will be 23 next season. The MLB roster size expands to 26 in 2020, and I think bad teams will use that to grab players like Chalmers with upside who may be exposed. The Twins have a few of them and ultimately I think someone gets left off. Chalmers is posting some sexy strike out numbers striking out 48 in 34 innings of relief work. He's also very stingy with the long ball. His walk rate though is scary as he gave 23 free passes. Bottom line for Chalmers is that right now, he won't do well on a major league roster. His AFL performance to date has not changed my view of this. I'm going to expose him.
- Tom Hackimer - Hackimer pitched pretty well in his age 25 season in AA. He's one that could possibly stick in a mop up role in MLB. I lean towards not protecting him as well given his age. He got the strikeouts this season, his walk rate was a bit high at just over 4 per 9 innings but overall had a pretty good season between high A and AA. He likely starts in AA or AAA, but I'm going to expose him.
- Jovani Moran - Moran is a similar pitcher to Chalmers if you look at the numbers. He gets lots of strikeouts and gives up too many free passes though he tends to be prone to the long ball. He will also be 23 next season. He's another one risking losing, but I think I expose him.
- Tyler Wells - Wells is the hardest one. He was absolutely money in the minors but TJS derailed his 2019 season before it started. He will be rehabbing and should be able to pitch most of the year. I think the upside is too good to risk this, so I keep him.
That leaves us with 5 additions. Our roster now sits at 36. We need to figure out at least 2 starting pitchers, a backup C, and ideally a shutdown RP. We're also sitting on a couple individuals (Harper, Poppen, and Gonsalves) that I'd like to keep but could be set free in the event a better opportunity comes along through cost cutting or trade.
Falvey and Levine stated they weren't afraid to blow up the payroll when the windows is open, so now it's time to see if they will put the Pohlad's money to the test. They need pitching help badly, and having someone that can sit in front of Odorizzi and Berrios is a must in my opinion. Sign Gerrit Cole or Steven Strassburg (if he opts out) to a 5 or 6 year deal at 30M/season. That's probably what it will take to get either one of them. Feasibly, they could get them both and still have payroll sitting south of 150M, but I'm guessing that won't happen as much as I'd like and there are other needs I'd rather address... But they have to go big here, even if that means out bidding the competition by a significant margin. That moves payroll to $119M and gives us a pretty nice starting trio in Cole, Berrios, and Odorizzi. I'm guessing there's a QO attached here too for Cole at least, and I sacrifice the pick.
They still need 2 more pitchers. I'm fine letting Dobnak, Thorpe, Gonsalves, and Smeltzer compete for one of the spots. Most of these guys did well enough that I'm not losing sleep over the role. It's Dobnak's to lose at this point, but he earned it in limited looks. The reality is that unless there's a trade in the works that involves sending one or two of these guys off as part of a deal for a more established option such as say Mike Minor, I think this spot is going to go to pre-arb guys. That's another 500k on the payroll. Note that I didn't mention Graterol. I'm assuming he's going to remain as a starter, but that also means he's capped at about 120 innings. He could be this guy as well, but I think he could pair well with Michael Pineda if they bring him back... which brings me to my next FA target:
There are a few names I'd probably target here, they will have varying costs/years attached to them: Bumgardner, Wheeler, and Pineda would likely be my top 3. I'm personally not sold on Ryu from the Dodgers, but if my analytics guys liked him, then perhaps he's an option as well. Pineda actually pairs well with Graterol in that he can be stretched out and be the 5th starter in April/May and switch more to long relief/spot starting as the season wears on and Pineda returns from his suspension. That would keep Graterol's innings around 120 for the year (baring injury of course, which with Graterol is not low risk). Pineda would have been a QO option had he not been suspended. With roughly 40 days left on his suspension and of course the risk that he gets suspended again for longer, he's likely going to sign for much less than that. I'd offer him a 1/7 make good deal unless of course there's an unexpected price drop for the other guys on this list. That also means Graterol is on the 26 man, so that's another 500k to add to the payroll. If one of these other big names sign, I'm likely going to give Graterol a late start to his season in AAA and stretch him out to be the spot starter for the inevitable pitching injury. Once he gets closer to his 120, I'd shift him to the MLB pen during the stretch run.
If you're keeping track at this point, I've added another 8M here and now I'm sitting at roughly 127M.
Next up, I target a catcher. I'm not liking the idea of going with Astrudillo as my backup C. Rortvedt and Jeffers may be knocking at the door next year at this time, but counting on either in 2020 would not be wise. Astrudillo, while a fan favorite, still has options and is extremely valuable to the team earning frequent flier miles between Rochester and Minneapolis when someone gets hurt, so I'm going to sign someone. Retaining Castro is fine in my opinion if he's OK with a backup role. I'm looking though for no more than a two year deal. Castro works fine here, but I'd also target Austin Romine, Brian McCann, or Steven Voght. I'd be fine sacrificing a few home runs for some OBP. These guys are not young, so they won't be getting a huge deal. I'm going to guess it will be somewhere around 2/10-15, giving you a 5-8M cost in payroll. I'm going to assume this is 6M for now, bringing payroll up to 133.
Last, I'm targeting a RP. I didn't learn my lesson about free agent relievers (and hopefully I'll update that blog at some point later this month), and there's 1 FA reliever that I want on this team and think that Falvey should pay for. I'm targeting Will Smith and spending what it takes to get him. I'm guessing he's signing for a 3-4 year deal at 10M+. He signed a 3/24 deal with SF in his last go around, and I have to think he's going to get at least that. I'm going to assume 3/30, but I'd be willing to pay more.
That brings payroll up to 143.
My 26 man roster is now as follows:
C - Garver
1B - Cron
2B - Arraez or Gordon
3B - Sano
SS - Polanco
CF - Buxton
RF/LF - Rosario/Kepler
DH - Cruz
Cole/Strassburg, Berrios, Odorizzi, Graterol/Pineda or other pitching FA, Dobnak
Smith, May, Duffey, Rodgers, Littell, Graterol, Harper (I'd have some open competition, but these are who I've penciled in).
Adrianza, Cave, Castro or other FA, Gonzalez
I didn't count the salaries of Littell, Harper, and Cave or whomever internally would beat them out which comes out to another 1.5M. That puts my total payroll at roughly 144.5. I would hope this could go up a bit if my estimates were a bit low, but there's room there in my opinion.
So there you have it. We can add a top shelf starter and relief pitcher and keep our payroll under 150M. I'm not sure what the front office will target, but this seems like a very reasonable option to field a very competitive team in 2020 and one with a good shot of advancing deep in the post season.